**This Evernote review is now quite old. Two new versions of Evernote have been released since it was published, the first update was not a major success, but the second put Evernote back on track. It is now at V4 and I still use it every single day. It’s probably the best free app I’ve ever used.
A little while ago I wrote a short post about Evernote citing 10 reasons why you should use it. Since the post was published I have been using Evernote on a daily basis and believe I have become much more productive because of it. As a result of this (and because my first post was a little weak) I thought it would be a good time to do a more indepth review of Evernote and what I like most about it.
The main benefit to me is its ease of use and the ability to store lots of useful snippets of information in one simple program. This includes links, screengrabs, notes, ideas for blog posts, random thoughts and anything else I come across during my working day.
An added bonus is that all of this information is regularly synchronised to a server which creates a backup of my data in case of computer problems and for remote access (one account can be accessed from anywhere as long as Evernote is installed on the device). This proved invaluable a few weeks ago when my laptop died a death and needed to be formatted.
Evernote is available for a number of platforms including Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry, Palm Pre, Sony Ericsson X1 and Windows Mobile. I use it on a Windows Vista powered laptop.
To use Evernote you need an account. The free account is suitable for the needs of most people, but if you require more storage space than the allocated monthly allowance of 40MB, or you would like to go ad free, you can upgrade to a premium account for $5 per month or $45 per year. This will give you a very generous monthly upload allowance of 500MB.
The free version carries a rotating ad in the bottom left hand corner of the sidebar but it doesn’t get in your way or detract from the user experience.
The Evernote interface is very clean, sensibly laid out and free from clutter. Across the top of the screen are the main icons, to the left is the navigational sidebar and in the middle is the work area. The layout is very similar to the classic web page layout of a few years ago. In the View menu are a few options which allow you to open and close elements of the page to suit your personal preferences.
Being an organised kind of guy, the first thing I did was create a bunch of folders (or Notebooks) to store notes for the various projects I am working on. Each of my blogs/websites has its own Notebook, I also have a Notebook for images and I have a Notebook for articles that have been published. You can create as many or as few Notebooks as you like. There is also an ‘All Notebooks’ folder which you can use to access all of your notes on one screen.
At the top of the window are the self explanatory icons which allow you to create new notes, view/edit the attributes associated with a note, email a note, print a note, add tags to a note and delete a note. There are an additional three icons; one is the synchronization button (this can also be automated), the second is the current monthly usage indicator (free accounts get 40MB, which should be plenty for most people) and the last is an icon which opens and closes a list of notes in the highlighted Notebook. The final area at the top of the window is the search bar. This will search every element of your notes including text, tags and titles.
To create a new note just click on ‘New Note’. The note can be edited within Evernote or you can click the grid icon in the top right hand corner to open the note up in a pop up style window. This gives you access to a TinyMCE like editing interface where you can change fonts, colours, add lists, toggle screen size, add hyperlinks, create to do lists and generally take full control over how your note looks.
You can assign tags to each post and give each post a descriptive title. If you do not enter a title, the note will take its title from the first line of text. Not always a great idea if you like to make notes that include snippets of PHP, CSS or HTML.
One of the best things about Evernote though is a cool little tool called ‘Clipper’. When I am writing blog posts I often have to do screengrabs or download logos etc. In the past I used a Firefox plugin, but after I shifted my default browser to Chrome I found creating screengrabs a little more difficult. Now, with Evernote and Clipper, it is a doddle.
All you have to do is hit the PRNT SCRN button and drag the Clipper to the part of the page you want to grab. The Clipper can be resized, and as you do so, the Clipper displays its size (and therefore the size of the grabbed image) in pixels. It can even stretched across two monitors!
Once you are happy with the size of the grabbed image, hit return and the image appears inside Evernote. You can then save it to your hard drive or leave it in Evernote for future reference. This little tool alone has been a Godsend. I use it on a daily basis and couldn’t live without it.
That is what I use Evernote for and I love it. But there are a people around who don’t like it and find it a bit buggy. I can’t say that I have experienced many problems with it apart from not being able to drag images to a folder, but after rebooting the app the problem was resolved. A bit of a niggle, but nothing major.
Below is a list of some of the other features of Evernote.
File import – this is something I haven’t used before but I will do from now on. The file importer allows you to import files of particular types (text, HTLM, PDF, MP3, WAV and images) into Evernote, and then automate future updates of those file types to specified folders. I tried it with a couple of PDFs and it worked very well. The only downside to the file importer is that it works at folder level only, and on individual files already stored on your computer.
Paint format – I mentioned a few sentences ago that I had not come across many bugs in Evernote, well, I just have. I am writing the tail end of this post in realtime. I found the paint/ink toggle feature for new notes and tried to get a screengrab using the clipper and guess what – it crashed. And not just Evernote. My whole system crashed and I had to reboot my laptop. Not impressed, especially as I forgot to activate autosave since my last system crash. Needless to say I have now done so and if it happens again I will only lose work completed during the last two minutes, rather than the last hour.
This is the screengrab that caused the crash. The white icon in the top left hand corner toggles the note between a standard note and this version, the paint like version, which allows you to write notes in freehand. You can choose from various pen sizes and ink colours and you get an eraser if things go wrong. This is not a feature I have used before and I don’t really see myself using it in the future, but other people may find it useful.
View in Google Earth – this sounds like a nice little feature but I couldn’t get it to work. The error message reads thus “No notes with geographical data selected. Select other notes and try again.” The problem is there is no guide to help you with the type of data required. I tried a few place names and zip codes but everything failed so I gave up.
Merge notes – another handy feature. To merge notes you have to hold down the CTRL key and highlight the notes you want to merge, then choose Merge from the Notes drop down menu.
File export – you can export notes from Evernote to locations on your hard drive. These files can be saved in one of the following formats – HTML, HTM, MHT or TXT.
To sum up; I have come across a few little bugs during the testing of some of the features of Evernote I don’t use, but I stand by what I said at the start of the review.
I will continue to use it on a daily basis and I would always recommend it to anyone who asked, but I can see room for improvement with future editions (version 3.5 is currently in beta release). But that can be said about almost every piece of software that has ever been released, nothing is perfect; there is always room for improvement and I am sure Evernote will just get better and better with each release.